Using High Speed Sync Flash For Studio Portraits

High Speed Sync (HSS) is a quite handy feature in a flash system that allows you to use flash at shutter speeds beyond the camera’s sync speed. This is important as it lets you use a combination of wide apertures and fast shutter speeds to create dramatic portraits. In this video, photographer Gavin Hoey from Adorama demonstrates how you can make setting up HSS really straightforward and take some eye-catching portraits:

If you have a fast glass, something like an f/1.2, why not shoot it at f/1.2? The challenge however is that you can’t cut off all the ambient light with such a wide aperture and the camera set to flash sync speed. The ambient light can thus affect the final image and potentially ruin it.

portrait at flash sync speed

This is where you need to set your shutter speed beyond the camera’s flash sync speed. To determine how fast you need to go, simply take test shots at varying shutter speeds. When doing so, keep an eye out for a black frame. You can then leave the shutter speed to the one that gives you a totally black frame.

determining shutter speed to work with HSS

This is important because from this point onward, the image will only be affected by the light that you add. You can thus have much better control over the final result. Simply set the flash to HSS mode and you’ll be able to work with flash at fast shutter speeds. If the image comes out over or under exposed, change the flash power until you get a proper exposure.

high speed sync portrait

portrait using high speed sync

Don’t limit yourself to working only at the flash sync speed. Try out HSS and explore the possibilities.

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